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Saxon Algebra 1... please help us.

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DD has basically always done saxon. She did really well with math until she started struggling her 7th grade year with 8/7. I thought part of it was just a difficult mental year (hormones and teenager stuff). We did Algebra 1/2 for 8th grade to try to help her solidify some of the basics. The first half the year was definitely better, but she started to struggle again by the end of the year. It was always hard for me to pinpoint exactly what she struggled with. She made a lot of sloppy mistakes. Would get a concept correct one day and then miss it the next. 

This year, Algebra 1 has been fairly disheartening. We sit together and go over the lesson and do the practice problems together. She then completes the lesson. The next day, we work together through every problem she misses. On average, she misses about 1/3 of the problems. The lessons take a long time. She is particularly lost on exponents... when you add them, when you multiply them, etc. I've explained every which way I can think of, but I think she has herself convinced she's not going to understand anyways. 

Amazingly, her test average is 85% right now. We are on lesson 68 in the book. She's a really smart kid... but definitely leans toward literature and art. She corrects my spelling and grammar at this point and can tear through classic literature way faster than I ever could. I'm at a loss of what to do. I've considered stopping this and restarting her in some sort of easier Algebra 1 program with plans to move her back into Saxon Algebra 1. However, in the back of my mind, I'm also worried that she isn't going to be able to get enough math credits behind her to do well on the SAT if we don't push forward. While also realizing that pushing forward and her getting even more lost makes zero sense. Sigh. 

I just feel like this is way harder for her than it should be. Like, it just seems so super frustrating. And I don't have the foggiest clue how to remedy the problem. Help.

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Hugs- I have a math struggle, too.  We also did 87, the Al 1/2.  We are at lesson 85ish right now.  I have went back 10 lessons and retaught a few times.  I'm giving us the entire summer to finish this book.  This week we introduced divinding by a term.  Took us 3 days.  We did events one day, odds one day, and skipped through one day.  As for exponents- I make my DD keep a book of math notes and I have her refer back to it.  I have- over and over- used real number example of when you add and when you multiply.  For example (x^5)^2

xxxxx  xxxxx = x^10

X^5 times x^2

xxxxx and xx= x^7


I'll do this with several numbers.  I make her write notes.

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Dd used Saxon for Algebra I.  I will say that Algebra I definitely showed the cracks and weaknesses for dd.  We brought her back home in 8th grade, had definitely lost some skills.  We repeatedly had to go back to Saxon's Algebra 1/2 for reference.  I also used another program to fill in gaps (can't remember which one).  

I'd try and stick with it...you've gotten this far.  On the SAT, the Heart of Algebra questions are very crucial.  I think Saxon does a good job of covering these bases.  

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I would keep plugging away.  My dd15 is in Algebra I, maybe on the same lesson. :)

We've done a lot of Saxon here and it sounds like you're doing ok.  She has a good test average, so maybe she is understanding more than either of you realize.

The high school sequence we do here is Algebra I, Algebra II and then Advanced Mathematics Lessons 1-90.  If your signature is correct that she is 14, she still has quite a bit of time.

I would highly recommend Art Reed's Saxon lessons.  Dd17 has done really well with them.  Dd15 doesn't do them yet, but will most likely use them when she gets to Algebra II.  (I would love for her to use them now, but she is reluctant.  Algebra II is out of my comfort zone and I outsource to Mr. Reed's cds.)

I would also recommend doing math year round so that she doesn't lose the progress she has made.  

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Maybe this will help with the exponents problem. My daughter is a sophomore in college. We did Saxon through Calculus. She was my my literature/art/logic kid. Hated math and struggled. At the beginning of every lesson, before you start the lesson, have her write the exponent rules. There are not many so this will only take a few minutes.

And my literature kid who wrote a novel at 15 and won awards for her vocal and piano performances -- she is majoring in math. She fell in love with math doing calculus.

Good luck. Hope this helps.

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The way Saxon is structured makes it so a student can do reasonably well on tests without actually understanding what they're doing (ask me how I know!).  They're just applying pattern recognition that has been reinforced by rote through all that review.  (Note that I'm not saying that ALL students using Saxon do this, but that it is a problem for some, and it's a pernicious problem because it is difficult for the parent to detect.)

I'd seriously think about switching to a more conceptual program--Jacobs comes to mind.  

As for the exponents--there is a logic to it that has nothing to do with remembering any tricky rules, as long as you understand what exponents and multiplication mean.  So the place to start is making sure she understands exponentiation and multiplication more generally.

Once you're sure she understands the concepts, have her write out all exponent problems she encounters this way until it is internalized:


x^2 = (x)(x)


(x^2)(x*3) = (x)(x)(x)(x)(x)  There are two x's and three x's (five x's total) multiplied together

= x^5   Exponents are added

* * * * *


= (x^2)(x^2)(x^2) There are two x's multiplied together three times

= (x)(x)(x)(x)(x)(x)  There are six x's multiplied together

=x^6  Exponents are multiplied


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